Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
Little League World Series, round robin play, Day 1 Thursday: Asia-Pacific vs. Mexico, 10 a.m., ESPN; Midwest vs. Northwest, noon, ESPN; Caribbean vs. Japan, 2 p.m., ESPN2; Southeast vs. Southwest, 5 p.m., ESPN:
Stammer all you want about how TV has ruined Little League 11- and 12-year-old kids — boys, that angle never gets old — but ESPN got a new tongue-lashing about it last week when it decided to stay with the conclusion of a Little League World Series qualifier, pushing coverage of a highly-hyped U.S.-Mexico soccer friendly to ESPNEWS for the first 20 minutes. That’s more than just good, sound programming. It’s the way we do things at the World Wide Leader, said an ESPN spokesman, who tried to be friendly when he tweeted: “Starting US-MEX on ESPNEWS was unfortunate circumstance but this is one of the challenges of back-to-back live events. ESPN almost always sticks w/ the live event until it ends. Soccer fans would want the same if a match ran long.” ABC, which first broadcast this event in Williamsport, Pa., in 1963, will get into the national exposure mix with preliminary games on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon, leading up to the network’s coverage of the U.S. title game (Saturday, Aug. 27) and the overall championship game (Sunday, Aug. 28). West Regional champs Ocean View Little League out of Huntington Beach opens Friday against Rhode Island (noon, ESPN). It’s kinda of odd to think that Angels backup catcher Hank Conger, recently sent back to Triple-A, actually played for the Ocean View team that made it to the West Regional championship in 2000.
MLB: Angels vs. Texas, Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., Channel 13:
There’s that dynamite TNT series called “Leverage,” with Timothy Hutton as a former insurance investigator. He’s got this bogus L.A.-based firm called Leverage Consulting & Associates, but they’re really more modern-day Robin Hoods — a thief, a grifter, a hacker and a retrieval specialist use their skills to right corporate and governmental injustices inflicted on ordinary citizens, justice league style. Ordinary Angels fans realize their bogus L.A. team could use all the leverage it can get in their latest battle against their AL West combatants, using this a four-game series (all at 7:05 p.m., with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on FSW) as a direct path toward stealing first place in any kind of method of thievery, grifting, hacking and retrieving. The key match up is Wednesday: All-Star C.J. Wilson against red-hot Ervin Santana. The Angels have won in nine of his last 10 starts, and he’s gone from 3-8 to 9-8 in the process, lowering his ERA by more than one full run. They know there’s three more to play against each other in Texas next week (Aug. 26-28) leading up to the final series of the season (Sept. 26-28).
MLB: Dodgers at Milwaukee, 5:10 p.m., Prime:
What’s brewin’ here? Same ol, same ol. Milwaukee, with manager Ron Roenicke, has command of the NL Central, bolstered by a bullpen that includes two former L.A. All-Star closers — Takashi Saito and Frankie Rodriguez. And the Dodgers, starting a 10-day, three-city tour, plan to combat that by using recent callup Nate Eovaldi up against Zack Greinke on Wednedsay (5:10 p.m., Channel 9), with Clayton Kershaw going into the afternoon finale (11:10 a.m., Prime).
MLB: San Francisco at Atlanta, 4 p.m., ESPN2:
Meanwhile, back in a world where Dan Uggla is no longer mentioned in the same breath as Joe DiMaggio … The MLB Network has Thursday’s game at 4 p.m.
NFL exhibition: N.Y. Jets at Houston, 5 p.m., ESPN:
It’s Mark Sanchez, in 30 snaps or less. Without Plaxico Burress to test out his injured ankle. But no longer wanting to slug Rex Ryan.
CONCACAF Champions League: Galaxy vs. Club Motagua, Home Depot Center, 7 p.m.:
Apparently, the sooner the Galaxy can import Robbie Keane from Ireland with a two-year, $8 million deal, and export Juan Pablo Angel and his guaranteed contract, the better. Meanwhile, there’s a gap in the MLS action so that the Clausura league champs from Honduras can come to Carson to play a tournament. After this diversion, the MLS resumes Saturday (vs. San Jose, Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime).
WNBA: Sparks vs. Atlanta, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
The Sparks (9-13) can dream big — they’ve got back-to-back wins for the first time in a month, and Candace Parker may be coming back tonight after her knee injury in early June. After this one against the Dream, there’s one more home game this week — Thursday vs. Indiana, 7:30 p.m. — before a road trip starts in Minnesota (Saturday, 5 p.m.) and Tulsa (Sunday, 4 p.m.)
MLB: Arizona at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., MLB Network:
Cliff Lee, coming off his 2-1 win over the Dodgers, is scheduled to get his bat back into the Phillies’ lineup against the current NL West leaders. The three-game series includes another national TV game on Wednesday (4 p.m., ESPN).
NFL exhibition: Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, Channel 4, 5 p.m.:
The Michael Vick Traveling Circus and Mega Team — defying all NFL cap salary space and time — shows off more of its moving parts in the Steel City. Last week’s exhibition opener had an impressive 18.5 local Nielsen TV rating in Philly, with the mark exceeding 21.0 in the first quarter. It’s either this, or the Saskatchewan Roughridgers against the Toronto Argonauts live in a real Canadian League Football game over on the NFL Network.
PGA: Windham Championships, first round, noon, Golf Channel:
Post PGA Championship and pre-FedEx Cup playoff, this event in North Carolina could have included Tiger Woods in the field, but he declined after failing to make the cut last week. Bad move? He’s down to No. 33 in the world rankings, which the Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson thinks hasn’t happened since 1997. During the second round of the PGA Championship coverage last week, analyst Gary McCourt, himself fashionable with his handlebar mustache, noted: “You know, the guys with the scruffy growths are playing better. Adam Scott (above) … Steve Stricker has it going. Time to man up, Tiger. He’s got the little thing growing. Not working for him, yet.” But then, what is? Golf Channel has the second round; CBS has the final two rounds.
NFL exhibition: Atlanta at Jacksonville, 5 p.m., Channel 11:
Keep an eye on this bunch of Jags. They could be your new L.A. team. Which means they could finally get rid of their mascot, named (really) Jaxson de Ville. It should be on the sidelines handing out bags of your Cheetos.
MLB: Dodgers at Colorado, 5:40 p.m., Prime:
Think of it this way: The Dodgers sweep, and they’re probably overtaking the Rockies and climbing into third place in the NL West. The series includes games Saturday (1:10 p.m., no TV) and Sunday (12:10 p.m., Prime).
MLB: Angels vs. Baltimore, Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., FSW:
The Angels took two out of three from the Orioles recently at Camden Yards, with Vlad Guerrero on the DL. He’s back in the lineup for the O’s, hitting fourth and DHing, but he has yet to go long this month. The series includes Saturday (6:05 p.m., FSW) and Sunday (12:35 p.m., FSW).
MLB: Cleveland at Detroit, 4 p.m., MLB Network:
Attention Jered Weaver: The AL Central-leading Tigers just put second baseman Carlos Guillen, hitting .207, on the 15-day disabled list with a sore left wrist.
Gymnastics: Visa Championships, St. Paul, Minn., 8 p.m., Channel 4:
Shawn Johnson, the 2008 Olympic all-around silver medalist and season six winner on “Dancing With the Stars” after she talked her mom into moving to L.A. where she finished her senior year of high school with private tutors, remains committed to making the 2012 Olympic team after a long break. But the 19-year-old hasn’t looked up to her championship form, falling off the balance beam at the Cover Girl Classic in Chicago last month. She still had her petition accepted to compete in this U.S. championship event. Her 2008 teammates Chellsie Memmel and Alicia Sacramone have shown more promise and should contend at this meet. Highlights of the men’s competition, where reigning U.S. champ Jonathan Horton is expected to win, airs Sunday (Channel 4, 1:30 p.m.), but it’s live on Universal Sports on Friday (5 p.m.). Universal Sports also has the women’s prelims (Thursday, 5 p.m.).
NFL exhibition: Oakland at San Francisco, 5 p.m., Channel 5; New Orleans at Houston, 5 p.m., NFL Network:
Here’s what happened to Raiders coach Hue Jackson’s team in their opening exhibition loss to Arizona last week: They won the coin toss. Jackson told them to defer to the Cardinals. One player told the ref they wanted to kick off instead. So Arizona started both halves on offense. As a result, Raiders defensive back Hiram Eugene was on the field to start the third quarter, when he shouldn’t have been. He dislocated a hip in that opening Cardinals’ drive.
NFL exhibition: San Diego at Dallas, 5 p.m., Channel 4:
There’s a clause in the Chargers’ lease at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego that allows them to leave between Feb. 1 and May 1 each year by paying up a substantial early termination penalty. But if you see Philip Rivers on the sidelines with an L.A. cap after the first quarter, there’s your first clue. NBC gets this game instead of the canceled exhibition in Canton, Ohio between the Bears and Rams.